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Designing the perfect sign: Action Signs top ten tips

I am amazed every day I drive down the street and look at the same outdoor advertising graphic design mistakes repeated over and over. Business owners trying to make a living with a street-side presence that barley commands attention. Here are some key design elements that I have learned over 20 years in the outdoor advertising industry and can be applied in principle to any fixed advertising sign, banner or vehicle.
  • Remember that potential customers of all backgrounds and ages are looking at your business from a moving vehicle, in traffic, day and night. They must be able to see and read your outdoor advertising easily. Don't attempt to sell them with information on the sign - save that information until they are in your business.

  • The correct design and layout of your sign is critical to its effectiveness. Crowding the sign with too much text makes it impossible to read from a car, or at a distance. Therefore, the fewer words the better. Use the age-old adage - K.I.S.S. method - Keep It Simple, Son.

  • Understand the concept of "First Read." There should be a focal point located on the sign that will have impact and command attention. Ideally, the first read should incorporate Branding elements like a large graphic, or your company logo.

  • Your sign is your "first impression" with the mobile market, and first impressions are lasting impressions. Your outdoor advertising must project the positive image you want the public to have of your business. Potential customers will judge the inside of your business by how it looks on the outside.

  • Many owners mistakenly think of a sign as merely a device that identifies the business. What they fail to realize is that over half of all new retail sales are a result of impulse buys. People see, shop and buy. If your outdoor advertising is ineffective, it will cost much more in lost sales then the entire cost of a good sign.

  • Your outdoor advertising must have visual impact. It must make your products or services, and your location, easy to remember.

  • Make sure the colours are used in contrasting patterns. Green on blue is not readable, whereas black on white is extremely visible.

  • If you have several colours in a graphic, stay away from multi-coloured lines of text or words (they will compete with the colours in your graphic). Black text is better.

  • Ideally, the design and the colours of your location or building should reinforce the design and colours of your sign (or vice versa). Colour is probably the easiest and most cost-effective device for this coordination of design for business identification.

  • "White-space". This is the surface area of a sign's face that is left uncovered by either text or graphics. The proper amount of white-space is just as important for quick readability as are graphics, text and colours. In fact, 30% to 40% of the sign's face area should be left as white-space for optimal readability.